Courtliness, Kingship, and 'Translatio' in BnF, fr. 2166 - Abstract

Title: Courtliness, Kingship, and Translatio in BnF, fr. 2166
Presenter: Mark Cruse, Arizona State University

My presentation for the Machaut conference will focus on the compilation in fr. 2166. Although not a luxury manuscript, fr. 2166 is a significant testament to literary history as it contains the Voeux du paon, the Restor du paon, and Machaut’s Jugement du roy de Behaigne. The Voeux du paon was one of the most influential and appreciated texts in fourteenth-century France, while the Jugement was one of the most admired works by Machaut. Following a brief overview of the manuscript history of these texts, I will discuss the reasons that might have motivated their compilation in fr. 2166. Chief among these is an emphasis on courtly values and courtly kingship. In the paon poems, Alexander the Great is reinvented as a defender and overseer of courtly pastimes, while in the Jugement Jean l’Aveugle presides over an idealized court. In all three texts the complex nature of love is at issue. Moreover, the Restor du paon and the Jugement both involve debates about love that are presided over by these courtly kings. All three texts contain high percentages of direct discourse that is intended to provide examples of ideal conversation. All three are markedly performative in their representation of social interaction and reflect the moral and aesthetic importance of beau parler within the court. The illuminations in this manuscript further emphasize these themes and invite reciprocal reading. Finally, fr. 2166 may be understood as articulating the translatio of courtliness from Alexander to Jean l’Aveugle. In this way fr. 2166 is true to both the manuscript tradition of the Alexander legend, which was often compiled with texts about medieval kings, and to the historical vision expressed by Machaut in both the Jugement and the Prise d’Alexandrie, in which the author makes explicit comparisons between his patrons and Alexander.